You’re filling out a job application and just as you’re about to hit “submit”, you see the dreaded “Please provide the salary for your current position” question. Plus, it has a little red asterisk next to it, so you know you are going to have to answer it to even be considered. Well in recent years a combination of case law and statewide and local statutes are beginning to change that practice, or at least removing that pesky red asterisk.
While a firm legal precedent has yet to be set, many employers are jumping ahead of the legal decisions and playing it safe by making the salary history question optional or by removing the question altogether.
In addition to a body of research demonstrating that salary history requests play a role in perpetuating both the wage gap between male and female employees as well as other race based discriminatory pay practices, many in HR argue that the salary history question simply doesn’t achieve what organizations are trying to accomplish by asking it in the first place.
Without formal documentation the accuracy of the dollar figure is questionable at best, making it an imprecise tool for setting compensation for potential new employees. Plus, the applicant is clearly trying to leave their current position, so perhaps discontentment with the pay is part of the equation?
On the flip-side of the argument, some experts worry that without at least a starting point for setting pay, the groups that have been paid less historically will continue to be offered less based only on assumptions about their actual level of compensation.
Regardless of what the long-term impact of salary history bans may be, many large, high profile organizations are choosing to ask job candidates for their “salary expectations” for the position to which they are applying. Here in Ohio asking for salary history information is still entirely legal, so we wanted to get a sense of where local employers fell on this spectrum from “required” to “optional” to “we don’t ask”.
To answer that question, between Thursday, June 28 and Wednesday, July 11 a total of 66 participants responded electronically to ERC’s “Salary History Requirement Poll”.
In order to provide the most reliable and accurate results, data was cleaned, all quantitative data was analyzed using statistical software, and qualitative data was coded where applicable.
Almost three-quarters of respondents request salary history information from their job applicants at some point in the process. However, it should be noted that in the majority of cases, providing that dollar figure is optional.
There was no clear trend in terms of the type of industry or size of organizations at which making salary history requests was more or less common.
Among the organizations that do make the request for salary history (either optional or required), the question is most commonly raised at the first in-person (or video) interview.
Twenty-one percent of this same sub-group ask for the applicant’s salary history on the job application itself and an equal percentage do so during the initial phone screen. Interestingly, despite the emphasis on requesting this information while speaking with candidates, either in-person or virtually, far more organizations reported requesting the information in a written format (73%) than verbally (31%).
The results of the poll are summarized in the figures below.
Figure 1: Organizations that request salary history from job applicants
48%: Yes, but it is optional
25%: Yes, and it is required
Figure 2: Types of positions for which orgnaizations request salary history
93%: All positions
7%: Exempt positions only
Figure 3: Point in recruitment/hiring at which companies request salary
Figure 4: Format in which organizations request salary history
Figure 5: Demographics of the 66 participating organizations
Compensation & Benefit Survey Data
ERC publishes compensation and benefit survey data covering local, regional, and national samples across a wide variety of industries.